Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Juvenile Correctional Schools: Characteristics and Approaches to Curriculum

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Juvenile Correctional Schools: Characteristics and Approaches to Curriculum

Article excerpt


This study focused on school-level approaches to curriculum, as well as school, principal, and student characteristics in juvenile corrections (JC) schools for committed youth. A national random sample of 131 principals from these schools responded to a mail and on-line survey. No statistically significant differences existed between respondent and nonrespondent schools. Approximately 80% of schools were accredited by their State Department of Education. The primary role of JC schools was to help youth obtain a high school diploma, followed by preparing students for the General Educational Development (GED) test. Approximately 66% of JC schools used a state or local education agency curriculum, while the remainder provided a school-developed or individualized curriculum. More than 50% of respondents asserted that grade level expectations should not be expected of all youth with emotional/behavioral disorders or learning disabilities. Additional results, implications, and recommendations for future research are provided.


Appropriate educational services for incarcerated youth have long been recognized as an important element of successful transition into society (Foley, 2001; Nelson, Leone, & Rutherford, 2004). However, the definition of appropriate educational services for these youth is highly debated. Basic educational entitlements noted in the No Child Left Behind Act (2002) include providing all youth with a "fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education" (Sec. 101). The provision of a high quality education is a right of youth with and without disabilities in juvenile corrections (JC) schools. For youth with disabilities, the entitlement to education is further supported in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA, 2004); this legislation requires that services be designed and delivered to provide access to and progress in the general education curriculum (Cortiella, 2006). The underlying assumption is that providing all students with access to the general education curriculum will prepare students for life after exiting school (National Center on Secondary Education and Transition, 2004).

However, for some professionals, provisions within NCLB (2002) and IDEA (2004) that require access to the general education curriculum seemingly run counter to IDEA regulations that call for individualized educational experiences for youth with disabilities (Hardman & Dawson, 2008). IDEA states the need "to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living" (2004, P. L. 108-446 Sec. 682 (d)(1)(A)). Preparations for future success and integration into society and access to the general education curriculum are not necessarily mutually exclusive. In fact, youth with disabilities who graduate with a diploma are more likely to be employed full time and live above the poverty level (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2001). Yet, many well-respected experts also consider that an appropriate education for youth with and without disabilities in JC schools should include greater individualization and consist of both access to the general education curriculum, as well as a more functional curriculum that includes pre-vocational and vocational training, paid work experience, and General Educational Development (GED) test preparation (Carter, Lane, Pierson, & Glasser, 2006; Lane & Carter, 2006; Nelson et al., 2004; Rutherford, Quinn, Leone, Garfinkel, & Nelson, 2002).

The dilemma of access to the general education curriculum versus greater individualization in JC schools is complicated by the characteristics and historical features of these secure education settings. In general, a lack of oversight has lead to a situation in which JC schools have one of the worst records of adhering to federal special education requirements (Browne, 2003; Coffey & Gemignani, 1994; Leone, 1994). …

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